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Croats, Danes brace for all-European battle

  • Published at 01:13 am July 1st, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:16 am July 1st, 2018
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Croatia football team Reuters

High-flying Croatia will face Denmark in an all-European battle in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia Sunday. Croatia are coming to this 2018 Fifa World Cup last 16 clash after three straight wins in Group D, including a 3-0 thrashing against Argentina. In contrast, Denmark reached the second round riding on just one win, against Peru, and two draws against Australia and France.

In the group stage, the Vatreni were the fourth-highest scoring side and played some sensational football. The odds are stacked heavily in their favour and there is high expectation that this batch will surpass the 1998 Croatian side which finished third in the France World Cup.

"We need to play a game of ball control. We do not think we are favourite in the game against Denmark. They have very good players and we are preparing for that game with maximum seriousness. It will be a tough match, like any other game so far. We played well, have had great victories, but if we do not win against Denmark, we did not do anything," said Mateo Kovacic to the media, adding that they need to play with style and dominate possession.

The Danes also have some fine memories from the 1998 World Cup. The European side produced their best ever performance en route to the quarter-final. The Scandinavians might have blown hot and cold so far but they have made the most of their chances.

With only two goals to their name, Denmark are the lowest scoring side among the last 16 teams while only three teams have had fewer shots on target than the Danes. But the most important thing is that they are still unbeaten. Christian Eriksen was involved in both the goals, assisting one and scoring the other, a 1-1 draw against the Socceroos. To add to that, the Tottenham Hotspur star has covered 36kms in the group stage, more than any other player in the World Cup.

"It will bring together the whole country if we move on against Croatia. It will lift the national spirit in the country. Had we gone home after the group matches, it would have been a scandal. Croatia are perhaps small favourite if you look at the clubs where the players come from. But I think we can settle it within 90 minutes," said a confident Eriksen before the game.

This will be the first instance of the two teams facing each other in the greatest show on earth. In five previous meetings in friendlies and qualifiers, both the sides have been victorious twice each with the other game ending in a draw. In the European Championship in England 22 years ago, the Croats beat the Danes 3-0, Davor Suker scoring a brace and Zvonimir Boban netting the other.

Probable line-ups

Croatia: Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Milan Badelj; Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic

Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel; Stryger Larsen, Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjaer, Henrik Dalsgaard; Lasse Schone, Thomas Delaney; Pione Sisto, Christian Eriksen, Yussuf Poulsen; Nicolai Jorgensen